When I started out studying for my IT exams in 1999, there were no distractions. If you wanted to go onto the internet, you usually had to unplug your home phone, set your dial up connection, and after a few failed attempts, you might get online. It was then only a matter of waiting a few minutes for the page on a website to open.
Of course, there weren’t many websites to visit. Even if you had a mobile phone, it was not only huge and expensive to use but was only suitable for sending texts or making calls. Talk about useless, right?
Fast forward to the present day, and we are faced with a barrage of interruptions. The technology which was supposed to serve us has, in many ways, enslaved us or at least robbed us of our time. Any of us who work online for our jobs will notice this particularly.
For this reason, we need a strategy if we are to avoid turning a 60 minute study session into a 10 minute sorry attempt.
Think about what distracts you the most when it’s study time. Here are a few of the common culprits:
- Phone ringing
- People asking questions
- TV noise
- Kids wanting to play
- Outside noise
These are all environmental factors, so we all know we can avoid these by turning our phones to mute, moving to a quiet room, and putting a “Do Not Disturb” sign on the door.
The other types of distractions are down to poor self-discipline and include:
- Checking our phones for messages
- Surfing the web
- Social media
- Checking e-mail
- Getting up to make drinks
I know I've been guilty of these in the past. Reading a technical manual can get very tiresome very quickly, and it’s only natural to want to do something more fun. This is why I recommend getting a study system in place with built in breaks and rewards.
I love the 50:10:50 system. This is where you break your two study hours into 50 minute study blocks and sandwiched in between is a 10 minute break for some quick web surfing, making coffee, going to the toilet, or whatever.
I tend to mix up a theory session with a hands on session, and it’s usually a practical or lab based exercise on the theory I’ve just read.
If you can study away from the computer, then all the better. I love traditional printed books because I can sit somewhere comfortable with the book and a notepad and not be too tempted to check Facebook.
It’s vital you turn off all notifications, such as pings and buzzes, which tell you that you've received a text, e-mail, or some other event that needs your attention. There are a few online tools available that can physically prevent you from visiting some or all websites during certain times of the day (such as Leechblock), but I really do recommend you get away from the computer if at all possible.
If you have to be online to study, then only have the window pertaining to your lesson open. I've wasted so many study sessions myself, and you and I both know how frustrating it is to get to the end of the day and know you wasted it. It’s another day further away from passing your exam and achieving your IT goals.
I love to have a photo of my goal right next to me. For me, it’s my kids. If I waste work time, then I don’t make money and that has an impact on my kids’ futures. If you don’t have kids, then put up a photo of your dream car or vacation because that’s what you will be risking if you don’t knuckle down and study.
So to recap:.
- Remove all distractions, and go somewhere quiet if at all possible
- Turn off any notifications
- Close any websites not related to your study subject
- Have a 10 minute break after every 50 minutes of study